In general you should be sleeping 6-9 hours a night without interruption. For many people this is not their reality and according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, millions of people in the U.S. have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep. If you are like millions of Americans looking for help to get better sleep than you have probably tried everything you can to get relief.
There are several factors that could be negatively impacting your sleep cycle. The most common factor but often overlooked is stress. Stress from work, finances, relationships or even anxiety of what the future might bring can cause one to easily lose sleep and lie in bed for hours staring at the ceiling fan. If you have a job in which you work overnights or get out of work past 8 pm you may have an extremely difficult time establishing a healthy sleep pattern. I suggest looking for work that allows you a schedule more structured and would allow you to get out no later than 6 pm. If having a regular work schedule is out of your current reach than establish regular eating hours and do not have breakfast any later than 9 am and dinner no later than 8 pm, max. Keeping a regular eating pattern among an ever changing or unpredictable work schedule can help the body adapt and keep your metabolism and hormones balanced.
Caffeine is not your friend if sleeping is an issue for you. Ween off all caffeine slowly over the course of 1 week. I suggest stepping down half a cup of caffeine a day until you are no longer consuming any. If you need to swap coffee or energy drinks out for another beverage try Teechino or herbal teas. If you wake up exhausted, do not reach for caffeine, instead push through and get in a quick walk or a set of jumping jacks to wake your mind and body up.
If you are experiencing menopause and sleeping has become an issue, your hormones could be the culprit. I suggest seeing a health professional to have your hormones tested. There are several all-natural ways to balance hormones with nutrition, herbal medicine, as well as Chinese medicine and homeopathy. Simply rebalancing your hormones may help you sleep soundly again.
Here are my favorite all-natural remedies to help improve sleep:
· Lavender essential oil
Put a few drops of lavender oil on your pillow before bedtime. Lavender is very calming and can help you get into parasympathetic mode. You can also add the oil into an essential oil diffuser so your whole bedroom smells of lavender.
· Calming herbs
When looking for a tincture or tea to take before bedtime look for these herbs: passionflower, hops, skullcap, chamomile, valerian, milky oats, catnip or California poppy. These herbs can help a nervous mind and body relax.
I have used autogenic training to help calm my body to fall asleep. Essentially you are telling your body to relax and become heavy repetitively until you fall asleep. Here is a youtube link that give you an idea of how to perform this technique
· Setting a ritual and clearing space
It is essential to set up good sleep habits. This means setting a time to go to bed every night and ritual whether it be drinking a tea, then brushing your teeth and then a quick prayer or meditation. The ritual should not include tv, electronics or books. Instead the ritual should be calming and not mentally or physically engaging. Turn off all lights and keep cell phones off or away from the bed. Use a white sound machine if a little noise helps you fall asleep.
If you are looking to get off sleep medication talk to your physician about natural recommendations and how to make the switch. Even if you have tried all of these recommendations to no avail there are several more naturopathic tools to help you get deep restful sleep.